The Shane Dawson Effect: The Sympathetic Voice For the Controversial
In anticipation of Shane Dawson’s new documentary series “The Mind of Jake Paul,” debuting today, I have been thinking quite a lot about the popular YouTube sketch comedy writer/actor, turned conspiracy theorist, turned documentary filmmaker, and the major impact he’s had on the internet in the last year.
Shane Dawson has been active on YouTube since 2008, and during his decade on the site, he has made a splash in every way imaginable. He started out creating wild and family unfriendly short video sketches, in which he played many of the characters in wigs, makeup and costumes. At one point, a comedy video of him pole dancing while his family members watched got back to his employer at Jenny Craig, where he, his mother and brother all worked. This resulting in all three of them losing not only their jobs, but - with Shane’s father out of the picture - the entire family’s source of income. Despite this difficult time in their lives and the fear that they’d lose their apartment, Shane still persisted to make content his fans loved. And once a video of his called “Fred is Dead” went viral, his YouTube career took off. While making his popular sketches and music video parodies, he began uploading to separate channels, one of them being “Shane,” where he uploaded daily vlogs of his life with his family, friends, dogs and girlfriend at the time, fellow YouTuber Lisa (Lisbug.) In 2012, he released his own original song “SuperLuv”, which hit #1 on the iTunes Top 100 chart. And he released New York Times best-selling books “I Hate Myselfie" in 2015 and “It Gets Worse” in 2016. In 2013 he also started a podcast called “Shane and Friends,” which has featured countless celebrity guests in its 5-season run. Since he began YouTube, he has amassed a combined 5 billion views on his three channels combined, and while he no longer uploads to his original account, his most active account, Shane, is currently at 17.2 million subscribers.
But Shane has always been an open book about his difficult past and the fact that his sense of humor comes from a very dark place. Growing up with an abusive father, who his mother had to eventually split from, left him very empty and depressed. This caused him to be completely introverted as a young person. His depression resulted in some unhealthy eating disorders, and he gained so much weight that he was almost 400 lbs during his senior year of high school. But determined to turn his life around, Shane lost all of the excess weight and got himself to a state of confidence where he was able to take modeling headshots and even appear in a few commercial spots. But while we all know him as a handsome, funny and successful man who is constantly surrounded by friends and family, he admits that the abandoned and obese side of him is always there taunting him. And it’s that honesty and vulnerability that has kept him a staple YouTube celebrity, while many vapid content creators have come and gone over the years.
Even when I outgrew his content that was most applicable to teenagers, I still checked up on his channel for years during college and tuned in to see what he was up to in his personal life. And in that time, we the fans have seen him struggle through his breakup with Lisa, come to terms with his sexuality, confront his father about what happened between them, and start a beautiful relationship with his current partner Ryland.
Similar to the growth in his personal life, Shane has also made some new developments in his professional life. After doing some serious documentary work pertaining to his own life and background, he began to document his interactions with various controversial internet figures. And after a while, he began making documentaries hitting on controversial YouTube topics. One of them being the TanaCon disaster, and the other being the life of Myspace kid turned beauty guru and business owner, Jeffree Star. Along the way, by his own honest and open nature, he gave a sympathetic voice to each and every one of those controversial figures. Even altering the general public’s opinion on them. After the success of those series, he is releasing an 8-part documentary series titled “The Mind of Jake Paul.” Considering all of the controversy behind Jake Paul, fans are worried about Shane collaborating with him. Especially since the direction the series will go is unknown to the public at the moment, and Shane’s way of dealing with people is through a soft and caring nature. For now, let’s take a look into the controversial people that have gained more fans or changed people’s minds about them through a Shane Dawson collaboration.
After Shane and his family struggled with the loss of their Jenny Craig employment, one thing that always made them smile was the Kathy Griffin’s comedy specials. She ended up becoming a huge inspiration of Shane’s throughout his entertainment career. Her crass honesty had always been incredibly relatable to him. Back in the day, Shane told his mother Teresa that one day everything would get better and that they’d meet Kathy Griffin in the future. And years later, Shane had her as a guest on his podcast. They hit it off, and he and Kathy were able to collaborate a second time, this time surprising his mother with an extensive tour of Kathy’s mansion. The video is very touching, showing Teresa crying as she embraced the comedian who had gotten her through her family’s toughest time.
One subject Shane touches on in the video is the controversy over Kathy Griffin’s infamous photoshoot, where she held a model of President Donald Trump’s severed head in her hand. After the photo went viral, it was decided by the public to have gone too far, threatening or suggesting violence against the president. It ended up losing her her position hosting CNN’s New Years Eve Live special, which she had held for 10 years. Shane discusses with her the similarities in their lives that their senses of humor had cost them jobs that resulted in humiliation. Their bonding session over the topic made the always sassy and catty Kathy seem very vulnerable yet hopeful after the entire experience. Their video amassed over 11 million views, and opened Kathy up to a whole new demographic of young people, as well as earned her back some people’s respect.
If you didn’t happen to notice, YouTube got incredibly political in 2016. After Trump’s election, channels that covered liberal or conservative views and talking points both became more extreme due to the divisiveness.
Then along came commentator Blaire White, who made a huge splash in the political category of the site. A pretty college girl sitting in her bedroom talking to a camera is not unique to say the least, but this particular college girl had a distinct point of view to share: She was transgender with relatively conservative views. She has always been very vocal that she does not believe in puberty blockers for trans minors, that she believes their are only two genders as opposed to the theory that there are many, and that she voted for Trump in this past election. As her conservative following grew, many members of the LGBT community feared that her popularity would cause people to assume that her opinions represent the opinion of all trans people and that the results could be detrimental to the community. While others believe that a conservative trans person with a platform can prove how much of an individual each trans person is.
Blaire has made an appearance on Shane’s podcast in the past, and recently collaborated with him on another video where they talk about their dark pasts and commonalities. Things get extremely emotional as they discuss their relationships with their fathers. And by the end of the video, all of the messages and comments toward Shane from his fans that they can’t believe he’d collab with someone like her, turned into messages that they were wrong about Blaire and like her after getting to know her better through this video. This was a huge gamble for Shane, who had a lot to lose when it came to his newfound friendship. But it’s proving to work out for both of them in the end. The video has over 1.4 million views and a 98% approval rating.
Whether you like her or not, YouTuber Tana Mongeau has been on fire for a while now. Her lifestyle videos, daily vlogs and rants, as well as her rather high-profile relationship with ex Disney star Bella Thorne has caused Tana’s channel to grow to over 3.7 million subscribers. And her friendship with Shane Dawson has not hurt at all.
After being banned from VidCon as of last year, Tana took to her channel to encourage her fans to protest the 2018 installment of the event. She then claimed that she was going to host her own convention, walking distance from VidCon on the same weekend, which would feature appearances and meet and greets from herself, her girlfriend Bella Thorne, Miranda Sings and Shane Dawson to name a few. The event would be planned through agency Good Times, which she had worked with previously on a smaller event.
The event sold out quickly, with a fraction of the guests allegedly paying $50 for a VIP experience and everyone else being able to RSVP for free. The day of the event, which was held at an Anaheim hotel, thousands of guests lined up in the hot sun to get into the venue. It was clear that the number of people with valid tickets could not fit into the small space allotted for the event. While the first 1000 guests were able to enter the hotel, the other few thousands had to wait outside. Many experienced sunburns, dehydration and general physical discomfort throughout the waiting process. Later it was discovered that almost all of the guests were forced to purchase the $50 VIP tickets, with almost no one being able to RSVP for free, and that around 5000 tickets were sold even though Tana and Good Times founder Michael Weiss signed a contract with the hotel that their event would only be for around 1000 guests.
The event ended up getting canceled partway through due to the endangerment of its guests and the general lack of organization. This resulted in fans who had driven and flown in from all over the world not being able to meet their favorite YouTubers and wasting time and money they could not get back. After everyone involved in the event was questioned by their fans as to how they got involved with this scam, Shane took it upon himself to create a 3-part series, where he researched what exactly happened that resulted in this big of a disaster. In the series, he interviews both Tana and Michael, looks into contracts with the venue, and even gets together with attendees to discuss their experience. All the while, Tana is hugging and kissing Shane, crying that she is so glad that he is doing this and that she can’t wait to tell her side of things.
I won’t spoil exactly who was at fault when it cam to TanaCon, but I will say that both Tana and Michael do a lot of damage control on their ends to their own followers and clients. Shane works hard to keep the documentary fair and unbiased. Tana and Michael have a lot to be thankful for PR-wise thanks to Shane’s platform and willingness to sympathize with them both. However, it will take more than a 3-part YouTube series to fix their careers, as Shane does explicitly expose what each of them hasn’t been honest about in the past regarding this event.
One of the biggest names on YouTube right now is none other than beauty guru Jeffree Star. Back in the day, Jeffree became internet famous on Myspace. He was known for his striking androgynous looks, the raunchy lyrics of his original pop music and the juxtaposition of his loves for cute girly imagery and violence, which ultimately formed the aesthetic he would maintain for over a decade.
Jeffree is a completely self-made individual who has worked every internet platform to his benefit and maintained a consistent fanbase for longer than most bloggers have been online. He now has taken the beauty industry by storm and started a company that is worth hundreds of millions.
On the way up, Jeffree’s polarizing sass and willingness for confrontation has resulted in many a feud with other public figures. His most well-known feud is with tattoo artist and makeup industry giant Kat Von D. In 2016 - after 10 years of friendship and many business collaborations - the pair announced that they were not speaking, for reasons that were a bit vague. There were some personal attacks thrown, as well as claims of bad business practices. In 2017, Jeffree also called out Too Faced’s Jerrod Blandino for underpaying fellow beauty guru Nikki Tutorials, which resulted in a heated back and forth on Twitter. And after developing a good rapport with the Kardashian/Jenner clan, Jeffree was notably removed from their PR list after he accused Kylie Jenner’s makeup line of copying his packaging designs, and called her out on her low quality/high-priced makeup brushes.
Jeffree - known for his fabulous home in the hill of Calabasas, his incredible garage filled with personalized luxury vehicles and his exclusive collection of Hermes Birkin bags - owns his own company that manufactures and distributes his make up line. He is not at the mercy of Sephora or similar brands to bow to their wishes and kiss up to the right people. His sense of financial independence makes it possible for him to create his own opportunities in every single way. So it’s no wonder he’s got feuds going on left and right. He’s one of the few people who can truly afford for a Kardashian to hate them.
After collaborating with Jeffree on a few different makeup tutorials, Shane decided that he wanted to delve in deeper to how and why Jeffree is as successful and wealthy as he is, and what life is like for this relatively secretive and mysterious eccentric businessman. Together, they created a 5-part YouTube series that included tours of Jeffree’s home, fulfillment center with over 100 employees, factory where his product is manufactured and the apartment he lived in for 8 years while trying to make it in LA. In true Shane Dawson fashion, the discussions got very intimate and Jeffree revealed some shocking secrets about himself that he has kept from not only the public, but even people in his own life. The series was incredibly successful and has amassed over 61 million views so far.
This video series was released in the middle of a feud that pitted Jeffree Star against fellow YouTube beauty gurus Manny MUA, Laura Lee, Gabriel Zamora and Nikita Dragun. The foursome spoke out against Jeffree over videos of him back in the Myspace days using racial slurs. In the Shane Dawson series, Jeffree gives a heartfelt apology for his mistakes made long ago.
Following the release of this video, comments and forums flowed all over the internet, with the general consensus being that the public had forgiven Jeffree for his actions and were ready to accept that a more mature person has bloomed from the club kid shouting in those videos. Meanwhile, racist tweets then resurfaced from the foursome who had ganged up on Jeffree and had been posting photos with captions that they were doing so much better without him. Gabriel Zamora had used the n-word to describe a man he had taken a photo of in public and Laura Lee had tweeted both “Ni**as in Paris? Whaaaat I thought they couldn't afford to leave Compton!” and “Tip for all black people if you pull ur pants up you can run from the police faster.. #yourwelcome.”
This resulted in the internet turning against that entire group and forcing Gabriel Zamora and Laura Lee to release apology videos. While Gabriel’s video was a personal apology to Jeffree, which Jeffree publicly accepted, Laura’s apology seemed like a total joke. She spent the entire video fake crying, wiping away invisible tears and trying to get out of a situation she was rightfully in. The video has over 11 million views and with a 92% dislike rating, has officially become a meme of sorts. In the aftermath, Laura was let go from several brand deals and lost over 500,000 subscribers.
Meanwhile, after the popularity of the Shane Dawson video, Jeffree has hit over 10 million subscribers and became the second beauty channel ever to reach 1 billion views, the first being Michelle Phan. It just goes to show what the Shane Dawson effect can do. Pouring his heart out to Shane in those videos really exposed a side of Jeffree that humanized him to the masses.
When you say the words “controversial YouTuber” the first people that come to mind for most people are Jake and Logan Paul. Logan and Jake are brothers who due to wild antics and over the top personalities, have acquired a combined 35 million YouTube followers. From prank videos to vlogs that go in-depth about their personal lives, to making dis tracks against one another during a so-called “feud,” the pair have made a huge name for themselves on the internet, to the dismay of millions including myself.
Deeply ingrained in the internet’s hustle culture, part of what makes the Paul brothers so popular is their willingness to do anything to become famous and their lack of concern for others. Many of Jake’s daily videos show him playing pranks on friends and family members, or causing physical harm or endangerment to others for views and attention. And Logan Paul is most known for a video he made while visiting Japan’s Aokigahara forest, which is an unfortunately popular destination for those planning on taking their own lives. Logan’s tour group came across the hanged corpse of a man, which he proceeded to film and post on YouTube. The video hit the trending charts, and before you know it, Logan was making thousands of dollars profiting from the pain of someone else. While his video was removed by YouTube and left a bad taste in the average person’s mouth, Logan’s subscriber count hit a record-breaking increase following the incident. Soon after that controversy, people started to watch the other vlogs pertaining to his Japan trip and noticed him making racist comments to the locals and completely disrespecting the culture in every way possible. Shortly, Logan released a prank video where he convinced his young fans standing outside of his apartment building that he’d been shot to death. Suffice it to say, creating mayhem is just part of who the boys are. And Jake is not far behind Logan on the mayhem train. Jake has been known for his physical roughness with past girlfriends in videos, and for his humiliation tactics used to control the people around him.
So when Shane announced his Jake Paul collaboration, it’s no surprise that fans immediately erupted in anger. No one can imagine what is going to happen when Shane and Jake collide. And with the sympathetic light Shane has cast over controversial figures in the past, his fanbase has been nervous that he will try too hard to humanize Jake and make excuses for him and his brother’s past actions.
But in Shane’s recent trailers for the series, he expresses a sense of overwhelm dealing with Jake and getting to know his life and the way he operates. The vibe from the series trailers seem so different from Shane’s interactions with any of the other figures on this list. And one comment he makes at the end of the first teaser trailer is making his audience realize that this may not be a tactic to get us to sympathize with Jake: “[I’m worried that] he’s gonna be mad when he finds out what this series is actually about.” Shane has also claimed on Twitter that while the title includes Jake’s name, it’s about more people than just him, and is moreso about an experience he thinks his fans can relate to in general. There is already talk of the use of hidden cameras and people being filmed without their knowledge during the making of this series, which could potentially end in lawsuits. Only time will tell what the intentions are with this series. But I will be covering my discoveries about it once the whole series is released. Please stay tuned for that.
WHAT IS THE SHANE DAWSON EFFECT?
The most important thing to know when watching a Shane Dawson production is that Shane Dawson is a businessman and a sympathetic individual. He’s been through hell and back and is a very sensitive and in many ways private person, who sincerely wants to know more about the world and how people operate. At the same time, he understands how to make money from telling a story and understands how internet virality works.
While he may not be an entertainment industry giant the way a mainstream director or actor is, Shane Dawson has the power to influence not just his 17 million subscribers, but a large portion of YouTube, due to a mixture of power and dignity. I believe Shane is a genuinely curious person who tries his best to get all the information he can on a situation, while maintaining trust with those he collaborates with. And that he is not afraid to share the harsh truth, even when it impacts people he cares about. Because at the end of the day, while we have always in the past known Shane Dawson to be an actor and a sketch writer, he has now crossed over into the realm of becoming a journalist. And it’s this sense of journalistic integrity we’ve come to expect from him, mixed with his ability to sympathize with struggle, that is making the internet wait with bated breath when he announces he will reveal something about a public figure. That’s the Shane Dawson effect.